What is a wetland?
Wetlands are called by many different names and occur in an array of landscapes. Oregon has many wetland types that range from tidal salt marshes along the coast to fresh water marshes along streams and ponds, seasonal prairie and meadow wetlands in the valleys to mossy mountain fens. Wetlands may form at the edges of lakes, rivers and streams, in low isolated spots on the landscape, and where groundwater comes to the surface via seeps or during winter rains. Despite the wide variety of wetland types, three features area common to all:
- The presence of water at or just below the surface of the land for at least a portion of the year,
- Soils that developed under saturated (wet) conditions, and
- Distinctive plants that are uniquely adapted to seasonal or year-round saturated (wet) soils
Prolonged saturation creates a wetland, no matter the water source. A high seasonal or permanent water table, rainwater “perched” over impenetrable layers in the soil, and frequent flooding are common examples. Wetland – or hydric – soils usually have distinctive, visible characteristics, such as brownish-red veining and rusty-colored splotches. Saturated conditions support plants that have adapted to life in permanently or seasonally wet soils.
Wetlands in Oregon provides an overview of how to identify wetlands.
Are there wetlands on my property?
Identifying wetlands is often difficult, as many wetlands do not appear obviously wet or they are only seasonally wet. In addition, many wetland landscapes have been altered over time by activities such as farming, and no longer “look like” wetlands.
Our Department staff provides assistance by conducting wetland determinations for the public (e.g. property owners, real estate agents, appraisers). This free service is usually conducted offsite (i.e., at their desk using GIS and other available information). Occasionally staff are able to visit the site as part of the wetland determination process.
Many wetlands in the state have been mapped for planning purposes, some by the U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service (USFWS) and others by local governments. The two types of inventories can be accessed through the wetland inventories section on this page.
The fact sheet Wetlands in Oregon
provides an overview of how to identify wetlands and what to consider when hiring a wetland consultant.
What if I have wetlands on my property?
If you know there are wetlands on the property or a determination reveals that wetlands are likely, and there are development plans for the site, you may need to hire a consultant to do a wetland delineation. A delineation is a detailed mapping of the wetland boundaries and boundaries of other waters, such a streams or ponds.
A wetland delineation report that includes your site’s characteristics, field data, and detailed mapping must be submitted to the Department of State Lands for review and concurrence. Department concurrences will indicate which areas on a property are subject to regulation and may need a removal-fill permit prior to any activities.
You may wish to hire a private consultant who specializes in wetlands and waterways regulation to assist you with conducting a wetland delineation and/or removal-fill permit application and mitigation plan. Information to help you hire a qualified wetland consultant may be found in the Wetlands in Oregon fact sheet. The Wetland Delineation Consultants Summary is a listing of wetland consulting firms with the number of delineation reports submitted to the Department of State Lands (DSL) and subsequently approved, approved with revisions, and rejected for the previous five-year period.
Many wetland professionals working in Oregon are certified as a Professional Wetland Scientist (PWS) or Wetland Professional in Training (WPIT) by the Society of Wetland Scientists’ Professional Certification Program. To be certified as a PWS or WPIT, a person must meet education and experience requirements, and adhere to a code of ethics and professional practice. The SWS Pacific Northwest Consultant list is provided as a service to its members and the general public.
A well-planned project will result in an easier and faster-permitting process. The Removal-Fill Guide: Chapter 4 – Planning Ahead provides guidance about early identification of waters on a project site, hiring a consultant, evaluating alternatives to avoid and minimize impacts, planning to mitigate for unavoidable impacts, and pre-application meetings.
The Department’s Technical Resources
webpage has tools and guidance for conducting delineations, assessments, and mitigation.